An all-Liszt recital by Arnaldo Cohen

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Ricordanza
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An all-Liszt recital by Arnaldo Cohen

Post by Ricordanza » Tue Nov 01, 2011 8:52 pm

In his review of this October 12 recital, Inquirer music critic David Patrick Stearns refers to Arnaldo Cohen as “a Philadelphia cult favorite.” I believe that Stearns is referring to the phenomenon that Cohen, although well respected in piano circles, enjoys a particularly devoted following in the Philadelphia area. For whatever reason, his appearances in this area are eagerly awaited and warmly received. Well, I am one of those who consider each recital by Cohen a special event, so I guess that makes me a proud member of this cult.

This was Cohen’s sixth appearance under the auspices of the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, and this time, as a special benefit for the Society, Arnaldo Cohen presented an all-Liszt program, honoring the 200th anniversary of the composer’s birth. The recital, and the reception immediately following, took place not at the Kimmel Center, but rather, the more intimate setting of the American Philosophical Society in Old City. A portrait of the Society’s founder, Ben Franklin, mounted above the stage appeared to look down on the pianist while he played.

Cohen began with two favorite pieces from the three-volume Années de Pèlerinage (Years of Pilgrimage): Vallée d’Obermann, from the first year, Switzerland; and Sonetto 104 del Petrarca, from the second year, Italy. The program notes inform us that the first piece depicts a varied emotional landscape, not a geographic location, while the second piece is devoted to one emotion—it is a setting of a love poem. Cohen rendered both works with a masterful touch.

In two pieces from his later years, Liszt began to push the envelope of conventional tonality. The Impromptu from 1872 has some unusual key shifts, while La Lugubre Gondola, written in the last year of Liszt’s life, 1886, gives us a taste of the atonal works to come in the early decades of the 20th Century.

But after this esoteric interlude, Cohen returned to one of the great virtuoso fireworks of the Liszt catalogue: Rhapsodie Espagnole. This is “fasten your seat belt” Liszt, and Cohen’s astonishing technical prowess was on display in a thrilling performance of this highly enjoyable work.

After intermission, Cohen turned to the Mount Everest of the Romantic piano repertoire, the B Minor Sonata. I say this because, although it’s widely acknowledged as the crowning achievement of Liszt’s solo piano output, some of us piano mavens consider this work as the summit of the entire Romantic era of piano composition. I’ve heard Cohen perform this piece once before, in 2008, and he clearly has “the right stuff” to conquer the enormous technical and musical challenges of this magnificent work. Once again, in this recital, Cohen was well on his way to delivering a strong and dramatic rendition when, during the Fugue, his concentration lapsed and he lost his way for a few moments. But he started the passage again and went on to complete a performance that was compelling and memorable.

After the recital, Cohen was warm and gracious as he greeted the audience at a reception. The cult looks forward to his next appearance in Philadelphia.

P.S. For a variety of reasons, I'm almost three weeks late in delivering this review. I promise to be more prompt in reporting on my next concert.

Steinway
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Re: An all-Liszt recital by Arnaldo Cohen

Post by Steinway » Wed Nov 02, 2011 12:28 pm

Ricordanza wrote:In his review of this October 12 recital, Inquirer music critic David Patrick Stearns refers to Arnaldo Cohen as “a Philadelphia cult favorite.” I believe that Stearns is referring to the phenomenon that Cohen, although well respected in piano circles, enjoys a particularly devoted following in the Philadelphia area. For whatever reason, his appearances in this area are eagerly awaited and warmly received. Well, I am one of those who consider each recital by Cohen a special event, so I guess that makes me a proud member of this cult.

This was Cohen’s sixth appearance under the auspices of the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, and this time, as a special benefit for the Society, Arnaldo Cohen presented an all-Liszt program, honoring the 200th anniversary of the composer’s birth. The recital, and the reception immediately following, took place not at the Kimmel Center, but rather, the more intimate setting of the American Philosophical Society in Old City. A portrait of the Society’s founder, Ben Franklin, mounted above the stage appeared to look down on the pianist while he played.

Cohen began with two favorite pieces from the three-volume Années de Pèlerinage (Years of Pilgrimage): Vallée d’Obermann, from the first year, Switzerland; and Sonetto 104 del Petrarca, from the second year, Italy. The program notes inform us that the first piece depicts a varied emotional landscape, not a geographic location, while the second piece is devoted to one emotion—it is a setting of a love poem. Cohen rendered both works with a masterful touch.

In two pieces from his later years, Liszt began to push the envelope of conventional tonality. The Impromptu from 1872 has some unusual key shifts, while La Lugubre Gondola, written in the last year of Liszt’s life, 1886, gives us a taste of the atonal works to come in the early decades of the 20th Century.

But after this esoteric interlude, Cohen returned to one of the great virtuoso fireworks of the Liszt catalogue: Rhapsodie Espagnole. This is “fasten your seat belt” Liszt, and Cohen’s astonishing technical prowess was on display in a thrilling performance of this highly enjoyable work.

After intermission, Cohen turned to the Mount Everest of the Romantic piano repertoire, the B Minor Sonata. I say this because, although it’s widely acknowledged as the crowning achievement of Liszt’s solo piano output, some of us piano mavens consider this work as the summit of the entire Romantic era of piano composition. I’ve heard Cohen perform this piece once before, in 2008, and he clearly has “the right stuff” to conquer the enormous technical and musical challenges of this magnificent work. Once again, in this recital, Cohen was well on his way to delivering a strong and dramatic rendition when, during the Fugue, his concentration lapsed and he lost his way for a few moments. But he started the passage again and went on to complete a performance that was compelling and memorable.

After the recital, Cohen was warm and gracious as he greeted the audience at a reception. The cult looks forward to his next appearance in Philadelphia.

P.S. For a variety of reasons, I'm almost three weeks late in delivering this review. I promise to be more prompt in reporting on my next concert.
Henry..

Great review, better late than never. Hated to miss this one. :wink:

See you for Goode on the 10th.

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